Riverhead Tomcats left fielder Andrew Gorecki couldn’t help but smile as he trotted back to the dugout from first base after coming within inches of hitting his third home run of the game Tuesday against Southampton.
“I can’t do everything,” he said, laughing, after the umpires conferred on the strange play.
Gorecki, a St. Anthony’s graduate who plays at Manhattan College, had just hit a high fly to the opposite field that kept carrying and carrying at Riverhead High School. Southampton left fielder Brenton Allen drifted back with the ball, then collided into the fence as he attempted to make the catch. He tumbled over the short fence and somehow hung on to the ball.
“I saw the ball go in his glove and then I saw him fall over,” Gorecki said afterward. “I didn’t see the ball come out. I was hoping it would come out because then obviously it would have been a home run.”
The Tomcats could have used the two runs after Southampton rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to win 7-5 and snap a three-game winning streak for Riverhead.
The umpires got together to talk about Gorecki’s ball to determine whether it was caught and then what to do with the runner who ended up on second base.
“The rule is if you leave your feet and go out of play, it’s a dead ball and the runners move up,” said Riverhead coach Randy Caden. “He caught the ball, then he fell over the fence and once his body touched the ground, it’s a dead ball.”
There was no confusion on Gorecki’s first two at-bats. He hit a two-run homer to right-center in the second inning for the first runs of the game. Then in the fourth he hit another two-run shot to center that gave Riverhead a 5-4 lead after Southampton had struck for three in previous inning.
The lead nearly stood up for Riverhead until the ninth when a one-out double by Vinny Zarrillo sparked a three-run inning.
The home runs were the first of the summer for Gorecki, who said it’s been a long time since he ever had a multi-homer game.
“Probably since I was little,” he said.
Gorecki is batting .242 in his first season playing in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Caden said he wasn’t surprise to see Gorecki show off some power.
“He has a very good swing and if his head’s on the ball he has the opportunity to do that,” he said. “He almost put that third one out.”
A day earlier Gorecki, who’s from Smithtown, said he went to the batting cage and took about 200 swings.
“I just kept working on things, trying to stay inside the ball,” he said. “Little things, little fundamentals.”
Gorecki hit one home run at Manhattan last spring in 128 at-bats. A left-handed hitter who throws righty, Gorecki said that’s how it came natural to him when he first picked up a bat.
His dad asked him if he was sure he was holding it correctly. When Gorecki said yes, his dad told him to go for it, as left-handed hitters are always a commodity in baseball.
It’s worked out well for Gorecki, who was a three-time team MVP in high school.
He benefitted Tuesday from a big game by catcher Seby Zavala batting in front of him. Zavala singled three times in front of Gorecki to set the stage for him. His first single came with two out after Southampton starter Eric Peterson struck out the first two batters.
He then led off the fourth with a single and again in the sixth. He finished 3-for-4 after flying out to right in the eighth.
The Tomcats got some strong relief work against the Breakers before the ninth. Riverhead starter Mike Trionfo gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings. The combination of Matt Facendo and Will Bacon combined to keep the Breakers scoreless through the eighth.
“We usually don’t lose games like that,” Caden said. “When you have one out in the ninth with your closer and you’re winning by a run, 95 percent of that time you’re going to win that game.”
At 16-9 the Tomcats still remain in first place, just ahead of Shelter Island.